The industry is flourishing
We headed south to sunny Santa Rosa, California to attend the annual Hall of Flowers cannabis trade show. The purpose of the show is unique in that it’s designed to introduce California dispensary buyers to the latest and greatest products available to be stocked. The first day was limited to store buyers and the second day was for other industry people. The capacity was also greatly reduced due to COVID, and day one tickets were in hot demand. While our mission was to help promote the Dodi Blunts brand to California dispensaries, we had the chance to see and meet a lot of brands and came back north with these five learnings.
Taking over three indoor buildings and a wide range of outdoor space, there was an incredible array of brands and products on display. Every form factor and use case seemed to be represented, with plenty of choice for the buyers. With buyers from 1200 stores roaming the floors, the amount of business done is astounding and the future retail trends for 2021-2022 are established at the show. California continues to have the most beautiful and bounteous flower on the planet, and it was on display. The sample dispensary was the most popular location, with buyers leaving with arms full of samples.
The brands are getting better and more mature
It was amazing to see so many brands in one place. The overall quality of the brands has consistently increased with many brands maturing into multi-product and multi-message platforms. There was a big disparity between the corporate brands and the community brands. The corporates were flexing their size and the community brands flexed their authenticity and organic following. Many of the brands were very similar, making it hard for most of them to stand out. The mainstream ‘for everyone’ brands continue to grow, but many brands are searching for profitable niches and use cases. Since the brands typically crowd into similar positioning quadrants; the opportunity exists for challenger brands, anti-brands and niche brands to gain significant traction.
The brands are mainly telling the same story
Going from booth to booth and meeting these awesome cannabis brands also illustrated how brands are struggling to find a unique value proposition that’s different from each other. You hear the same product-driven stories around grow type, plant type, statistics, and quality, but they all seem to blend into one and don’t allow for products to differentiate themselves very well. This is especially acute in the wellness space, where various, limited claims collide and blend into a brand smoothie. Brands of the future will need to ensure they stand for something or have something to talk about beyond the basics as consumers are looking for something more and aren’t buying just based on table stakes.
Even in California, it’s all about the THC
High THC reigns supreme in California. The highest test products continue to demand the highest retail prices and greatest demand, while the “midzotics” struggle to keep up. Many brands are offering infused products to boost the THC and 100mg drinks are prevalent. Consumers are starting to look at total cannabinoids and not just THC %. It doesn’t feel like the high THC market will slow down until consumers have other options and indicators.
The edible market is growing and diversifying
There were a ton of edibles brands and products and they’re getting much more diverse and differentiated. Beyond just flavours and strength, edibles brands are starting to segment based on food type, usage occasion, additional ingredients, single strain inputs and more. When combined with other edible form factors such as beverages, shots, gel caps, tinctures and syrups, it’s clear that a significant portion of the market is looking for a non-combustible form of recreation.
Take the trip
If you ever have the chance to attend the Hall of Flowers, we highly recommend it. It’s quite different from most alcohol-fueled business conferences and has a more communal and peaceful vibe to the event. But don’t let the laid-back NorCal feel fool you – this show is all business and the tastemakers in attendance will determine the future of cannabis brands in the most important location on the planet!
If you want help bringing your brand to market in California, reach out and say hi on Instagram – @torontojeff and @corey.way